Every man I have ever known has fallen in love with Gilda and awakened with me. ~Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth was born on October 17, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York and died May 14, 1987 in New York City. She was an American movie actress and also a talented dancer. In her 37-year career, she performed in 61 films, with her performances earning her status as one of the American Film Institute’s Greatest Stars of All Time.
Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Cansino to two dancers: her father, Eduardo Cansino was a Sephardic Jewish flamenco dancer who immigrated to New York from Spain and her mother, Volga Hayworth, was also a professional dancer. Rita began taking dance lessons when she was three. When she was eight years old, she and her family moved to Hollywood, California, where her father opened his own dance studio. Rita made her dancing debut that year in La Fiesta (1926) when her cousin’s dance partner broke her leg and Rita was offered the opportunity to perform.
After her dancing debut, Rita began dancing at nightclubs in Tijuana, Mexico, as she was not of legal age to perform in the United States. Rita was soon discovered by Wilfred Sheehan, the head of Fox Films, and had her film debut at age sixteen in Dante’s Inferno (1935). When Fox didn’t renew her contract, she began a new contract with Columbia Pictures.
Rita gained true stardom in 1941, when she starred in three feature films. In The Strawberry Blonde, Hayworth appeared as the second female lead on loan to Warner Brother’s from Columbia. Her popularity grew so immensely in this film, even in a supporting role, that Warner Brothers tried to buy Hayworth’s contract. Later that year, Rita starred as the temptress Dona Sol des Muire in Blood and Sand (1941). Following these two box office hits, Rita returned to Columbia studios to co-star in a lead role with Fred Astaire in You’ll Never Get Rich. Her acting and dancing with Astaire was so impressive that Hayworth and Astaire made another movie in 1941 called You Were Never Lovelier.
In the three years following her return to Columbia studios, Rita remained one of the top movie actresses in the world. She continued her career with a dancing role with Gene Kelly in the Technicolor movie Cover Girl and several other Technicolor films. After her erotic role in Gilda (1946), however, her popularity diminished. She interrupted her film to marry Prince Aly Khan, whom she later divorced, and when she returned to the studios in the 1950s, her films were less impressive. By 1960, she was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and ultimately ended her career. Today, however, she remains one of the most popular actresses, dancers, and female sex icons of all time.